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11 G+ Hangout best practices

If you’ve had a chance to read my previous blog post introducing Google+ Hangouts, you’d know I’m a big fan of the free video conferencing feature of Google’s social network, Google+.

Enticed to give a Hangout a try? With six months of Hangout participating and host experience with Stutter Social under my belt, I’m sharing my best practices of hanging out.

1. Turn off TVs, radios and other noise makers in the room

Google engineers did a great job at filtering out background noise coming from each Hangout participant. However, it can’t filter out the tv in the background, other people in the room and those police sirens blaring through your window. As a curtesy to your Hangout mates, please ensure you’re in a quiet room.

2. Adjust yourself before entering the hangout

We first see our own video when we are about to enter a hangout. This way, we can adjust our hair and such before entering.

However, some users forget to adjust the location of their laptops. If you’re on your laptop and are using your internal mic but need to move your laptop around, please do so before entering. Your laptop’s internal mic picks up the noise of the moving around that you don’t hear on your end. It’s really loud in our ears at our end since we’re using headsets or earbuds.

Mute your mic (and video would be good, too) if you need to adjust your laptop during a hangout.

3. Turn off your mic and/or video when speaking to a family member

We have the ability to turn our mics and web cams off right in G+ Hangouts. This is a good thing because microphones are pretty good at picking up distant sounds. This means that, yes, we can still hear your conversation going on in another room when you’ve stepped away from your computer. While we may not be able to make out words, it’s extremely distracting and uncomfortable to be able to listen in on private conversations.

If you need to leave for a while, consider leaving the Hangout and returning when you’re able to. G+ Hangouts have a maximum of ten participants and you can free up a space if your Hangout is full.

4. Not everyone has the same equipment as you

Keep in mind that not everyone is able to produce clear sound or video. Perhaps they are using their internal mic, or a very cheap microphone or a logging in at night in a dark room. Maybe they just can’t go to another room. If this happens to you, please consider making some changes as it will improve the Hangout experience for you and your Hangout mates.

5. Explain why you’re muting other participants

Sometimes people don’t realize there’s noise coming from their end. Or they have no control over eliminating it.

A feature of G+ Hangouts is all participants are able to mute each other (we are also able to unmute ourselves so don’t try to use it as a punishment feature) . If you need to mute someone, please explain to them why. And don’t forget to mention that hey can unmute themselves every time they speak.

6. People pop in and out of Hangouts

Don’t take it personally. It’s either a hardware issue on their end, their Internet access isn’t fast enough to handle everyone’s video streams or their schedule simply ran out.

People who keep popping in and out within a second or two are those with slower Internet speeds. Check out G+’s technical recommendations.

7. G+ page admins show up under the name of the G+ name

I am identified as Stutter Social as I host Stutter Social Hangouts started via the Stutter Social G+ page. In fact, everyone else listed as admins of the page are also identified as Stutter Social. This can get confusing in the text chat rooms. When this happens to you, be sure to identify who is doing the typing.

8. Speaking of text chat, first timers don’t see it

G+ Hangouts have a text chat feature. This is great for welcoming newcomers who arrived in the middle of someone speaking. It’s also great. For quick side conversations. Keep in mind that these side conversations can become quite distracting from the video conversations so try to keep them a a minimum. Remember, no matter what corporate life claims, humans were never made to multitask.

See the chat button on the top left?

9. Get accustomed to repeating simple instructions

Participants may not even be aware of the text chat feature nor the button on the top left corner to open the room. Participants may not know how to adjust their settings. As people pop in and out of Hangouts, be patient as you need to explain (or hear someone else explain) how to work their way around the place.

Since G+ doesn’t have a private text chat feature (a good thing in my opinion), you can help trouble shoot offline or point them to a link or two. G+ has some great help pages for Hangouts.

10. Sometimes a user will not see another user’s video

Hangouts are still in beta so there are some bugs and knickknacks that still need working out. Remember, the Goole servers and your computer are trying to process all that video and audio filtering and syncing.

The problem could also be on your end so do make sure all is working on your end first. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the full Hangout experience assuming the fault rests with Google.

11. Be respectful of everyone

I really don’t need to mention this, however, we also have the ability to block someone in a G+ Hangout. Be aware that if only one person participating in a Hangout even accidentally blocks someone (it has happened), that someone won’t be able to come back in. Even if 8 out of the other 9 participants don’t have that someone blocked. So use this feature with great caution.

Especially since its so close to the mute button.

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